The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick: Characters & Quotes

Instructor: Lindsey Hays

Lindsey has taught Elementary Education, Spanish immersion, and ESL. She has a MS in Elementary Education with a BA in Spanish.

From train stations to machines and movies to magic, Hugo's life is changed when he meets Isabelle in The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick. In this lesson, we'll look at some of the captivating characters and quotes in this magical story.

Secret Life

What would you do if you were invisible? Play a trick on someone? Sneak in to an important meeting or event? It might sound exciting to live under the radar, but that's not the case for Hugo! In The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick, Hugo is forced to try and be invisible so that he can go on living in a train station in Paris. But once his secret life is revealed, a whole cast of quirky characters enter the scene.

Let's learn more about these characters and some of their most important quotes.

Main Characters

  • Hugo Cabret: The main character, Hugo, is a 12-year-old boy who is an orphan. Hugo lives in a train station and is great at fixing mechanical things, like a toy mouse. He is on a mission to fix his dead father's automaton, or robot.
  • Georges Méliès: Georges is an old man who owns a toy shop. He takes care of his godchild, Isabelle, though he does it grumpily. He is an incredible filmmaker and artist. Even though Georges doesn't like Hugo, he saves Hugo from the station inspector and allows Hugo to live with him.
  • Isabelle: Georges Méliès' godchild, Isabelle, is also an orphan, but she lives with Georges Méliès and Mama Jeanne.
  • Mama Jeanne Méliès: Mama Jeanne is married to Georges Méliès. She is kind to Isabelle and Hugo, even after they have stolen. Jeanne is in charge of the key for the automaton until Isabelle takes it.

Hugo and Isabelle

Supporting Characters

  • The station inspector: The station inspector tries to have Hugo put in jail for living at the train station. He is the antagonist, or enemy, throughout the story.
  • Etienne (pronounced ay-tee-ann): Etienne is an older boy who enjoys films as much as Hugo and Isabelle. He sneaks Isabelle into movies and helps the two younger kids out when they need it.
  • Rene Tabard: Rene is another movie fanatic who helps to remind Georges Méliès about why movies are so great.
  • Hugo's Uncle Claude: Claude is a terrible caregiver and abandons Hugo after treating him poorly.


Let's take a look at some memorable quotes from the book and what they mean:

  • Hugo's father had stepped into a dark room and, on a white screen, he had seen a rocket fly into the eye of the man in the moon. Father said he had never experienced anything like it. It had been like seeing his dreams in the middle of the day.

Hugo's father loved the movies. In this quote, Hugo remembers this story that his father told him, describing the first movie Hugo's father saw as a young boy: A Trip to the Moon. The scene being described here is what the automaton draws once it is fixed, and the movie is by none other than Georges Méliès.

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